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The Old Lady In Blue Sari

I was walking back home from the bus stand. A long day I must say, plus the honks of traffic and the bustle of the vehicles clearly didn’t make things any better.

On the way, I saw an old lady walking ahead of me. She carried a jute bag full of clothes—it was her ripened age that made her bend over rather than the weight of the bag she carried. A polythene with a few Parle G biscuits hung loosely from her fingers. She wore a blue sari wrapped shabbily around her petite frame. With her ragged white hair spread carelessly on her tiny head and her hunched debilitating body, she walked at a slower pace. I easily overtook her.

Through the corner of my eyes, I saw her turning into a lane—was it my curiosity or my pitying over her state, I slowed down and started following her.

Her steps were little and her walk was slow. I had to stop to keep up with her—I pretended to be on phone, lest she notices me following her. At one point, I saw her talking to herself, gesturing at the big houses that we were passing.

I realized she might have been not been in the best of her mental health, probably, downtrodden by the rugged conditions of her life . Walking parallel to her and keeping up with her pace, I saw her approach a few street dogs. She sat on the road side, called out to them and started breaking and throwing the biscuits  at them. I was so touched by her act—despite being in a deplorable condition, she was feeding street dogs, who happily waged their tails, feeding on the morsels she had to offer.

I couldn’t hold myself—I went near her and knelled down next to her. I started petting the dogs to make it look like I wasn’t following her lest she might become suspicious or uncomfortable. When she saw me, she started talking to me with vigor, but in a language I couldn’t understand. She talked about the dogs ( Naai in Kannada language ) in the beginning. We engaged in a conversation as if we were casual friends and had met after a long time.

A closer luck at her made me feel sad. Her face was a wrinkled with stretches of lines running athwart the face. Her puckered skin had adjusted to her aging body. Her eyes reflected the pain and turmoil a 75-year old could have gone through.

While talking, her tone shifted suddenly. From the bits of Kannada I knew, I could make out she was talking about her house—her voice wavered and streams of tears started pouring down her cheeks.

She continued speaking and what I understood was that somebody (probably, her family) left the house, leaving her alone. She said she didn’t know where they went. Her lips quivered—grief and dismay poured from her eyes. She spoke in low, cracked voice—though I couldn’t make out single word she was saying then, I listened to her.

I brought my hand near her face and, gently, rubbed off the tears from the creases of her skin. I pressed her hand in reassurance—though she might not have understood my tongue, I consoled her and asked her not to cry. The touch of sympathy made her cry even more—I tried holding back my tears as I felt her pain. She pinched her arms, showing the loose skin that hung from her thin limb. I couldn’t say anything to comfort her, but I offered her grapes that I had purchased that evening and the little money that I carried in wallet at that time.

She folded her hands to thank me, but I persuaded her against it. Refusing to accept her gratitude, I tried to deviate her from the topic by asking her about her home, making the shape of house by pressing together my finger tips. She understood and spoke something, out of which all I could get was ‘Kerela’. We continued talking that way deciphering and responding to each other’s words with our expressions and gestures.

People passing by noticed us and gave us quizzical glances. I thought I could ask someone to interpret the old lady’s language for me, but, then, felt against it. I might invite unnecessary comments and the old lady may get uncomfortable—so I stayed put.

We talked like that for good 15 minutes, after which we both instinctively got up to walk again as if we knew the time was up. She called on those dogs and started feeding them. She somehow explained me the way to her home—inge, ange and asked me where I lived. I couldn’t explain much but she seemed convinced and moved on, talking to the dogs and speaking to herself.

I continued walking towards home contented. Strangely, my heart felt lighter after talking to her.

old woman

Image Source: http://www.shutterstock.com

P.S: I didn’t want to take her picture. Taking and posting her photograph felt like a tool to gain attention online and a disrespect towards her.

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Ms Free Willy

2LittleMoment :  Ms Free Willy


This story begins with the time when I was doing my summer internship at Ghaziabad, UP. Daily up and down from Faridabad to Ghaziabad station included my routine for six long weeks. Hectic it was the three hour journey but equally interesting, as I love to travel alone. One of these long summer days, I boarded the local shuttle from Faridabad station at 7 in morning. Hustling through the crowd to grab a seat, I ended up at a corner at the end of the ladies bogie. People while travelling usually pass their time, chit-chatting or singing prayers and folk songs. That day was no different as a bunch of ladies just in front of my seat were singing devotional songs one after the other. With closed eyes, folded hands engaged in regular clapping as they sang in unison, seemed more like a dedicated and devotional prayer to their God. The chanting and singing continued for the next one hour as the crowd shrank with the upcoming stations, until only 4 ladies remained their singing reducing to talking now.

One of the ladies got up suddenly and went to the bogie door. She leaned across the pole that supported the door and lit a  ‘beedi’ ( local tobacco).  Once she sucked in a long puff and hung outside the door like men usually do and breathed out the smoke that flew across her face as the train speeded. She continued hanging until her station arrived and got down from the still running train hopping onto the station. The other ladies back on their seats looked in astonishment and whispered to each other, while I marveled at her courage.

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Thru My Mind:


 

Ms FreeWilly, nothing seemed apt to title this instance. I know you feel the women did something unimaginable, something that contrasted her characteristic of Godly devotion. I won’t point out on her deeds rather I would like your thoughts to jump onto another perspective.

Khaled Hosseini, in his famous novel ‘ A Thousand Splendid Suns’ , mentioned in one of the character’s dialogue-“Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.”

Your first impression of those ladies would have been devotional, having good character, devoted wives and sisters. A splash of surprise spread in your mind when you read on further. Well, she did spend some time to remember God, but then carried on with her own life as she wishes to be, as all men wish. I saw her giving herself freedom and equality. I saw a free lady, master of her own will and courageous to carry out her deeds without thinking of the world around.

What did you think?